DALLAS -- The Dallas Police Department cleared Alan Mason as a person of interest in the Fair Park serial rapist case Thursday afternoon.
“After discussions with the Crimes Against Persons Supervisors and Detectives, it is believed that Mr. Mason is no longer a person of interest based on the recent suspect interview, further review of the offenses, additional DNA analysis, offense details obtained from the survivors, and suspect [modus operandi,]" Sgt. Warren C. Mitchell said in a press release. "It is the department’s belief that Mr. Mason was not involved in these cases. Although DNA analysis is still pending on one remaining case, we don’t believe he is responsible for these crimes due to the above reasons.”
At a news conference Wednesday night, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said he made the decision to announce to the public and put out of picture of Mason to solicit the public's help in finding him. An anonymous tip led the police to Alan Mason. A tweet including Mason's name and picture and calling him a person of interest from Chief Brown followed that tip.
That decision has led to strong reaction in the community.
“Because the stigma of 'man of interest' has the same connotation as the bottom line he's guilty," said President of the Dallas Chapter of the NAACP Juanita Wallace, "and if he is, in fact, found innocent, then there is going to be a problem with that."
Mason was arrested and being held on a probation violation, but was never arrested for anything related to the rapes. The chief has repeatedly said Mason was never a suspect in that case.
Mason said he was stunned to find out he was under arrest and then once in custody, even more stunned when police began to question him about a series of rapes in the Fair Park area. The 2002 graduate of Lincoln High School, who holds a master's degree in criminal justice from Grambling State University in Louisiana, said the accusations don't match his pedigree.
He believes the subtle distinction between "person of interest" and "suspect" won’t make much of a difference even now that his name has been cleared.
“I was so sad, embarrassed, very angry. I worked really hard to build my character up to where I'm at now." he told News 8’s Rebecca Lopez from behind a glass panel Monday at Lew Sterrett Justice Center where he was being held on probation violations stemming from a DUI.
Jonathan Green works at Richland College and grew up in the Fair Park area where the rapes occurred. He said Brown owes Alan Mason a public apology.
"I mean, he's ruined, and Chief Brown has ruined him," he said. "I think it was a rush to judgment to name him a person of interest to appease the public."
Mason, a father of one, admitted to mistakes, but none on par with what his name and face were eventually tied to when he was named a person of interest in the rape cases.
"It's really sad I'm in here," he said. "I did have a violation of my probation for DUI. I'm dealing with that now."
The DUI derailed his law enforcement ambitions, and as a result, Mason has worked as a high school monitor and an insurance agent. Just two days before he was arrested, Mason was optimistic that his life was back on track. He posted on Facebook that he was feeling accomplished and wrote, "Everything is finally coming together. Sometimes God will put you through a lot of small things to prepare you for a big blessing."
Brown said he had to release the name because officers had searched for Mason for 11 hours and couldn't find him. But Mason's grandmother said when officers arrived at her home, she told them where to find him. He was sleeping at his Arlington apartment.
“If, in fact, Mason is innocent like we seem to think, then the police chief will owe not only the family but the entire community an apology for this," Jonathan Green said.
The president of the Dallas Police Association Ron Pinkston said the chief did what he had to do to find a rapist.
"The Dallas Police Department and Chief Brown did an outstanding job in catching a serial rapist, and that person is now behind bars awaiting trial for all these rapes," Pinkston said.
Mason said he believes Chief Brown handled his situation poorly and should face some sort of disciplinary action.
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